by Amy Burke
With archways of intertwined banana leaves, garlands of marigolds, music and parades, the villagers of Bihar warmly welcomed LWR’s Charles Zang to visit ongoing projects in India.
Bihar has endured several years of droughts, making food growth and production very challenging. LWR and the Foods Resource Bank have partnered with PRADAN and ASA in order to address these food security issues. In hopes to more deeply understand the ongoing programs and their direct impact on the surrounding community, Charles joined the villagers sitting cross legged on mats in a circle, eager to hear their accounts firsthand.
The implementation of food security is multi-faceted. The basic goal is to be able to produce a food supply that lasts for twelve months. Before food security programs, the rice paddies in Bihar were only been supplying 3-4 months of food. Implementing better water and harvesting systems, as well as introducing a wider variety of vegetables, has allowed them to grow food for 10-12 months instead.
Self-help groups were also organized among the women as another element to the program. The groups help women save money in case of crop failure and enables them to take out loans without having to deal with unfair interest repayment rates. These support systems have become vital financially, emotionally, and created a deep sense of unity within the community. Charles recounts, “Besides listening to each other, they stand together in crisis and stand against exploitation.”
The villagers of Bihar expressed gratitude and warm feelings for the effectiveness of the programs through their hospitality and eagerness to tell their own stories These projects have made a serious impact on the quality of life in Bihar. Food production has dramatically increased and the strength and support the women have found in each other is profound.